September Remembering~

My body felt September 11 approaching, even before my mind became aware of it.
This morning, September 11, I woke up and could feel the nerves edging along my skin. The feeling only intensified as I watched snippets of remembrances on TV.
Why, you might ask, would I put myself through watching something more when my heart was already hurting?
To bear witness, quite simply. It’s my tribute to those who died on that day, 17 years ago. If they could bear to go through what they went through, I can bear to watch it and honor them.
This day of remembrance is a day that hits so hard, personally. Nobody I know died that day, but Chuck and I were living in south Jersey, just a little over an hour away from NYC. He was working at McGuire AFB and, as I watched the news, it seemed as if the base might be another target. Nobody was allowed on or off the base and no phone calls, so I couldn’t reach him.
He finally walked in the door around midnight.
My sense of safety in the world, since Chuck died, is gone.
We would speak of that day, often, in the years afterwards, especially when we were flying somewhere to visit family, or when he flew on business.
Chuck was adamant that if terrorists were to take over a flight he was on, he needed me to know that he would fight back. Of course you would, I’d tell him. And if I’m on the flight with you, I’d be right beside you.
He was at my side, and I was at his, through thick and thin. He’d been a safety officer while active duty, and would go over What If scenarios with me regularly. As in…if this bad thing were to happen to you, how would you react? How would you get out of that bad situation? Put a plan in place in your mind. Plant it there, so that you react out of muscle memory, rather than freezing and not responding. Learn how to save your own life. Or, at least, give it your best shot.
I felt so safe with Chuck at my side. Yes, I still go over scenarios in my mind, training my muscle memory. Yes, I keep a go bag at the ready, in case of…I don’t know…all the unexpected shit that can happen in life.
I was as prepared as I could be for his death 5 years ago. Because my career was hospice, death was a familiar topic at our dinner table and anywhere else. We didn’t shy away from it. We’d spoken about our wishes long before his first cancer, and I’d written it all down in a notebook. You know, what kind of service, life insurance, imagined scenarios for me.
Somehow, even as we spoke about the possibility of me surviving him, the word widow never entered the conversation. He’d be dead and I’d be on my own but…widow? It never entered my mind.
With all our conversations about death and dying, with all the responsible shit I wrote down in that notebook, never once could I have imagined the devastation of living without him. Never once could I have envisioned the emptiness of life without him, the sheer agony, the silence.
The silence.
Even though I speak on the phone with family and friends every day, use social media, text, use all the methods of communication that exist in our day and age…the silence is deafening.
The silence is in my heart and soul and it comes from the stark reality of Chuck’s absence. There is no other voice that fills that space, no matter what I do.
And I wonder, on all days, and on special days like this September 11, if I’ll ever feel that sense of safety again. Or a sense of peace. Or lightness.
Yes, I’m a strong woman. Yes, I’m independent. Yes, I can live on my own and be good with that. Yadda, yadda, yadda.
September 11, 2001 took away our sense of safety as a nation.
April 21, 2013 took away my sense of safety, personally.
Chuck was my go to person, at my side on that day, even though he was on base and unreachable. I knew he was there, though, and that comforted me.
There is no comfort to be found in this life without him.
And that’s just the honest truth~

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If These Gods~

If all things that are impossible
Became impossibly real,
And the unimaginable
Became impossibly imaginable,
And what is impossibly, unimaginably, inconceivable,
Became entirely plausible.
In a world where my fiercest and most impassioned pleas,
Ringing forth from the depths of my shattered heart…
Could be heard pulsating through the days and nights of the almighty Universe,
And the gods of the Romans and Greeks and all gods through Time
Were to hear my cries,
Bouncing off the stars and the moon and the sun…
Especially…most especially Aphrodite and Pothos and Eros…
And Mars, that fierce god of war, who understands passion and ferocity,
If these gods, dancing among the stars,
Were to hear my fervent keening,
And, in response, radiate their powers into one lone energy that would shape all that is impossible,
Into the possible,
With a nod to the mighty Thor for use of his valiant hammer…
They would, on the winged feet of Mercury…
Convey you, my dearest Love, my beloved, my husband,
To my side once again~

What Remains, After You~

A trifold flag, presented to me at your memorial service.
Where are you, my beloved?
ID tags that hang over my bed or around my neck.
Where are you, my beloved?
3 children you raised with me, though they weren’t of your blood.
Where are you, my beloved?
A grandson who would tower over you in height, and who reminds me of you each time I see a picture of him.
Where are you, my beloved?
A son who lives your example of a life of service.
Where are you, my beloved?
Another son who loves science and philosophy, who holds your strong belief in family.
Where are you, my beloved?
A daughter who gently and quietly offers Love to those around her.
Where are you, my beloved?
The thoughts I have, the words I use to explain them, remembered from you.
Where are you, my beloved?
The simple tasks of daily life…putting gas in my car, walking for exercise, paying bills.
Where are you, my beloved?
The open road in front of my car, looking West, steering me into this new life.
Where are you, my beloved?
Words that tumble from my lips, as I speak with our kids…words that you once spoke to them.
Where are you, my beloved?
Words spoken to me from friends, spoken by you to them, about me and your deep Love for me.
Where are you, my beloved?
You are the whisper in the halls of memory for me, for so many of us.
You are my heart and my soul and my pulse beat, every moment of every day and all through the nights,
The days and nights that are in the thousands now, since we last touched.
You are my beloved.
You are in me and of me,
You are my passion and my pain,
My Love and my beloved.
Your Love for me echoes through these halls of memory,
Burns and singes and sears and sighs and yearns and wishes.
Fuels all that I am. All that I will ever be.
Your beloved.

Love, on this Odyssey of Love~

Perhaps one of the most helpful things I’ve learned in a little over 5 years of widowhood is this…
I don’t have to be anything different, feel anything different, aspire to anything different…before going and doing whatever it is that I feel I must do to live this life without Chuck.
I don’t have to have hope. I don’t even know what hope looks or feels like.
I don’t have to have faith. Seriously, I have no clue what faith is, especially as related to religion. Which I shed many years ago in any case, with no interest in returning to it.
I don’t have to have confidence. Mostly, since Chuck died, the road I’m on diverges and changes at any given moment. I’m living a life completely removed from the life he and I lived, even as we spent our last 4 years living full time on the road. I started out on my own not having a clue, and, though I believe I present a fully confident face to the world, each day is another day of figuring it all out. Even if I have some of the technical stuff figured out, about living in a trailer, the emotional components leave me, often, wandering in circles.
I don’t need to feel any of these to do what I’m doing.
Then what do I need? What does get me through each day and each night?
I get that question a LOT.
It’s quite simple, at least to me.
Love.
It is only Love that keeps me driving mile after mile, getting up each day, and wrapping me in its’ embrace each night.
Love.
I stop and think, sometimes, what this widow life would be like for me, if I’d settled into an apartment after Chuck’s death, and I’m fairly certain exactly what would have happened.
I would have closed the door, drawn the shades, and the only thing that might have possibly drawn me to the outside world would be the occasional need for groceries. I would have had to get a job, so I’d have forced myself outside for that, and then retreated as quickly as possible to the rooms behind the closed doors.
Isolation would have been public enemy number one. It is for many of us in the widowed world,  I expect.
Instead, I bought my little trailer and painted it pink and began my Odyssey of Love.
It began as a tribute to the Love that Chuck left behind for me. It was a tribute to our Love story.
I added his name, in decals, to the back of my rig, in my 3rd year of widowhood.
In my 4th year, I realized that this life of mine without him was bigger than me and Chuck…bigger than the Love story he and I shared. So I decided to ask around my widowed community for who might like me to add the names of their person to my rig, PinkMagic.
Very quickly upon that thought was…it’s about our Love for them, certainly…but I want to honor those of us left behind. So I added the names of my widow sisters and brothers too.
My thinking continued to expand…
This Odyssey of Love was, and is, about all the Love left behind, and it’s about honoring those left behind, but it’s also, quite simply, about Love and all the power that is carried in those 4 letters.
I was workamping at Opera in the Ozarks and many of the students there, and orchestra, were coming to me to read Oracle cards for them. We’d have deep and insightful conversations borne of the cards they drew, and I started inviting them to sign my rig with messages of Love. We’d get pictures of us together after they signed it.
They wrote lovely poems and true messages of Love, cheering me on my way. They’d even write messages of Love to my rig, PinkMagic, thanking her for carrying me on this Odyssey.
All of this energized me, and I put the word out to everyone who follows my Happily Homeless is MoonStruck page, to send names of those they love and I’d add those names. Send a message of Love you’d like me to write and I’ll write their names on PinkMagic. People started sending auto paint pens to me so that I could write and write and write on PinkMagic and the words and names would remain, no matter the weather.
My rig is covered in names and words of Love. Front, back, sides.
As I continue my Odyssey of Love, driving along the roads of this country…highways, 2 lane roads, back country roads…people passing me by will see those names, read those names, find my blog and know the power of Love.
My god, the fucking power of these names and words of Love….the sheer fucking power of Love.  iPiccy-collage
Every time I glance in my side view mirror, I see those names. I step outside my rig and I read those names and I feel all the Love that those names represent.
I don’t know what I’d do with my life if I wasn’t doing this. It’s the only thing that gives me any sense of purpose in this life without Chuck.
And what I found out, as I began this Odyssey of Love 5 years ago, is that the only thing I need to do this is believe in the power of the Love that Chuck left behind for me. I only knew it intellectually when I first began, and that was enough to get me going.
It took me almost 5 years to feel it in my heart, to feel the connection to him in my heart, but that’s okay.
I still struggle with feeling it, but that’s okay.
I don’t need to do any of this perfectly.
I just need to do it.
Because ain’t nobody going to do this life without him, for me.
It’s all that I trust in, in this widowed life.
Trusting in his left behind Love. Trusting in all the Love that I meet on the road. Connecting with as much Love as I can, every mile.
Trusting that Love will continue to carry me.

 

This 4 Letter Word~

I don’t know what hope looks like. Are you cringing yet?  Hope is a word that is tossed around in grief circles…in life circles, really, as an antidote to, I don’t know…despair? Which is all well and good and I’m glad for those who grasp its’ meaning, and have it.

The word just doesn’t resonate with me, in this life without Chuck. It never has, on any of the 1,942 days since his death.

I know that we, as humans, are encouraged to have hope, to cultivate hope, to find hope, to reach for hope, but I don’t know what hope looks like.

Hope, to me, implies the ability to see light in my future, and I don’t see light or comprehend how life can even feel any lighter with the continuing absence of my husband, and the burden of figuring out life completely on my own.

It isn’t that I can’t figure out the complexities of life; of course I can. I’m an adult. It isn’t that I’m not okay with being alone in the world. It’s the idea of being alone without my husband, for the rest of my life.

Do I already hear cries of but you have to be okay with being alone! You’re a strong woman! Stand on your own! Like being on your own! What’s wrong with you? You’re depressed! Medicate yourself! It’s a choice to be happy! You must have hope! Forge your own identity! Blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda…

But all is not lost, so simmer down, folks.

I do know what Love looks like.

And people have said to me, as these 1,942 days have passed, and I’ve driven thousands of miles on this Odyssey of Love, honoring Chuck, honoring the loved ones of people I meet on the way, paying tribute to those left behind, and gathering Love around me, that my strong belief in Love is the same as having faith, as having hope.

I don’t rule out that possibility. Words carry different meanings for different people, as we all know.

All I know is that my belief in Love is so strong, so determined, so fervent, that it gets me to my feet each morning, leads me to interact with each and every person I meet throughout my day, no matter where I am, and directs my every action.

Love leads me to reach out to people and new situations, counteracting my instincts to isolate myself. It leads me to keep my heart open to each new day, even as Chuck’s absence looms so largely. Love leads me to keep at it…at life…with all that life brings.

This isn’t the life I wanted to lead, and that’s just the truth. It’s the life I have, because Chuck died. And, somehow, that makes it second best, honestly.

And, no, I don’t take into account what he’d want for me. You know, that he’d want me to be happy, yadda, yadda, yadda. Of course he would, and I know that better than anyone else, thank you very much.  I also take into account that Chuck isn’t the one left behind to manage life without me, and, if he were the one left behind, he’d have his own struggles, living without me. Sooooo…

So hearing shit like that has no impact on me.

What I have resolved is that, if I must live life without him, and apparently I must, then it will be the most colorful life imaginable. It will be…already is, in some ways…a life lived outside the box of expectations. It will be…is…a life dedicated to honoring him and our Love story and all the Love that is in this world and in my life. It will be…is…a life of reaching out, with Love, to everyone who crosses my path, pushing boundaries and comfort zones.

I refuse to live what I consider an ordinary life. The life I lived with Chuck was too powerful with Love, to allow anything less now, without him.

I remember Chuck’s Love for me, and mine for him.  That’s all that I need to know, now. And as long as I keep our Love alive, and seek to focus on the Love that is so present in my world, still, then I’m not concerned about whether or not I have hope or faith.

Love is all that matters to me.

Only Love~

In Love with…a Dead Man…Gasp!

He strides through my mind on a daily basis.
My heart yearns for the Love I felt so strongly with him.
My soul remembers back to the years we shared.
My body yearns for his hands upon it.
It’s been 5 years and 3 months since he left my world.
I’m in love with a dead man.
I can almost hear the shrieks of dismay and shock and see people draw back in…
I’m not sure why they would draw back upon hearing this from me.
Maybe it’s too morbid? I’ve been accused of morbidity.
Maybe they feel that it says something slightly crazy about me, that I’m in love with a dead man…
And I speak so openly about it.
Maybe they think that being in love with a dead man will keep me from being in love with a man who is alive.
Not that any opportunities have presented themselves.
Here’s the god’s honest truth…
I think about my dead husband day and night.
My pulse beats to the memories of our years together.
As I go about living this life…interacting with those I meet along the way on a daily basis…
I’m thinking about him.
I think of how he would handle tough situations.
The toughest situation being the one where I have to live without him.
He is my first thought upon waking,
My last thought before sleep claims me,
And every thought in between.
I do all the things I do and I live this life and few, maybe, suspect that I’m living a life in my heart where he is still with me.
He is my every moment and, honestly, I have no care for other’s opinions of that.
And, if ever a man should materialize in front of me…a man who is perfect for me…I’ll tell him right away that I’m in love with a dead man, but the human heart expands to love,
And I can be in love with a breathing and walking around man, even while I’m in love with a dead man.
And always will be.  And he won’t be second best. He’ll be the living person that I’m in love with.

So, there you go.
Maybe this small bit of writing is what I’d use on a dating profile.
It’s a pretty good filter, I expect.
*Only serious and very strong, enlightened, and courageous men need apply*

A Roar of Defiance~

Along about the second year, definitely going into the third and then the fourth…I just wanted to scream at people.
Not in anger, but in shredded grief and pain…
Why can’t you just let me be sad? Why does it feel like I must defend myself against you? Why does it then feel like I have to defend my grief even to myself? Why does it feel like I can’t just feel what I feel, be whatever I am? Why must I expend all this energy defending my right to feel all that this is? Why is it not okay with you that I can’t find my feet and I’m feeling so disoriented that my stomach continually wants to heave its’ contents? Why are you trying to make me feel like I’m doing something wrong?
Why can’t you just let me be fucking sad?
These are a mere sampling of the piercing reactions that took up so much space in my heart and soul and mind in the first years of grief, in reaction to all the well meaning mostly discussions that people would have with me. To me, really, because they weren’t seeking discussion with me as much as they were telling me where they thought I should be with this, or how they thought I should be with this.
Grief, I mean.
How I was grieving vs how they thought I should be grieving.
They didn’t realize this is what they were doing, of course. At least, I hope they didn’t realize this is what they were doing.
Whether that was their intention or not, shaming is how I heard every word.
And every word from them shattered me more, because I, and we, already judge ourselves so much, when we grieve.
Am I grieving too much? Too little? Am I “okay” too soon? Not “okay” soon enough? What if I break down in public? I’m so exhausted…should I go out or not? They expect me…does that matter? Can I just get in bed and pull the covers over me and not go out for a year? Is that okay or not? Does that mean I’m depressed? Am I depressed? Should I go on medication? I don’t want to go but I’m going to go so that I can show everyone that I’m “okay” even though I’m not okay by any stretch of the imagination but I don’t want them to worry so I’ll go. If I talk about him, how much is too much? How much is not enough and then they wonder if I’m forgotten him? I need to get back to work for distraction/money/I’ll lose my job but I’m so exhausted. I can’t function but I have to. Hold the tears back. Okay, now cry. Breathe hard…
All these questions, and ten million more, are questions and doubts that we hold already in our hearts, when we grieve. And then well-meaning people voice them to us and this widow thing becomes more impossible, more unbearable, than it already is.
I knew I didn’t have to defend my grief, or my right to grieve, of course, even though it felt like I did. My grief would not be denied; it streaked through my DNA and took up residence and I wrote about it and made my writings public so that grief wouldn’t kill me. Which was, and always is, a risk, but it was one I had to take, or vaporize into a mist of non-existence.
Here’s the thing. It is normal to grieve. It is normal to grieve hard. With tears, with tearing of hair, with a closet full of black or a closet full of color as we scream our rage and defiance to the skies. It is normal that exhaustion set in that we think results from the strength of our emotions but is really a more holistic exhaustion that comes from, well, all that is grief. It is fucking normal to react however you react according to your situation, your history, your relationship, your background…your everything. It is NORMAL.
It was somewhere in my fourth year that true acceptance set in with me. Not acceptance of the death, which is what we’re told acceptance is all about. Acceptance, for me, wasn’t about the death. It was about my right to grieve in whatever fucking way I needed to grieve, for as long or as short as I needed to grieve. When people, possibly in true ignorant fashion, seek to instruct me, now, on proper grieving, I say to them thank you for your opinion, and continue on my way.
The ever popular anger stage of grief…which isn’t actually a stage of grief at all, but a step in the process, as written by Elizabeth Kubler Ross, for those who are DYING, having nothing to do with the grief of those left behind so for god fucking sake, people, can we get rid of that..is, I think, anger at those who shame us as we grieve. Yadda, yadda, yadda, give them that they love us, want us to be okay, want us to be, ultimately, who we were before, so that they can feel comfortable with us again.
To which I say….bless you! in the same manner that Whoopi Goldberg, as the nun in Sister Act, said bless you to the guy who was going to blow her head off at the end of the movie, and she wanted to curse at him but the Mother Superior was standing right there and being a fake nun and all, instead of fuck you she said bless you!
I was angry a few times but did my best to respond diplomatically to those who were outright cruel in their words, as I grieved. Diplomatically because I’m not one to be cruel in return, and because, initially, I was in such shock, and it’s only as I look back that I see the intensity of my shock, that I didn’t fully realize then. Diplomatically because I’m not a cruel person.
But what I wanted to say to the family member, who was very close to Chuck is…how dare you bring your bullshit to this sacred space we have created for him? How dare you bring your darkness to this man who is leaving all that he loves behind him? How dare you try to sully his memory with the ugliness that you hold in your heart? Keep that to yourself; there is no place for it here. Ever. Take your doubts and your guilt elsewhere. Not here. Never here. And…bless you!
And to my friend who was loved by Chuck, but who decided, 3 years in, to take confidences that I’d shared with her about the family member and make them her own and cast her own darkness into them and onto them and throw them at me…the friend who told me that I needed to settle down and get a job instead of gallivanting around the country, dragging my husband’s name through the mud…you clearly never knew me, and you most certainly didn’t know Chuck, and, quite simply, you betrayed him because of the darkness you carry in your own heart and in your life and that’s not on me or him, so…bless you!
At 5 years in of this widowhood, I don’t know what I’m doing, mostly, but I’m totally confident about doing it anyways, whatever this is. I don’t give a grand flying fuck about other’s opinions about me or how I’m doing this. I focus on Love every damn day so that I don’t lose my fucking mind because, guess what, folks? In spite of the grief shame you sought to cast upon me, I’m still grieving! You didn’t make things better for me…surprise! I miss Chuck so damn much it takes my breath away…yes, even 5 years later! My nights are unbearably lonely and I reach for his flag that I was given and I trace the stars on it and I clutch it close to my body, with the same passion that I used to draw him close to me. My heart hurts and it aches and I feel numb and I feel disconnected in every way…so I get up every damn day and I wear something pink and I go out and I find the Love.
I find the Love, wherever and however I can. And I miss him and my vision literally blurs with tears that I must live without him but the tears don’t keep me from seeking out Love…wherever I can find it.
You know what I do with my grief, all you grief shamers out there?
I fucking find the Love~